We discussed this some in class. If we do decide on a set of rules that can be used to mark work as literature, who gets to be the judge? The lover of the intellectual pursuits makes the best case as a judge to me. More accurately, the relative worth of a piece as literature should be established by the population of the educated.
Of course, like in all groups, there will be dissent over what is and what isn't literature. More dangerously, works may be left out if one school of thought rules as a majority and puts stringent standards on what may be considered. It is bound to happen. I doubt many English professors consider Nas's "Illmatic" to be culturally significant despite being hip hop's masterpiece. It is important to note that eventually that may not be the case especially as the world changes and gets closer to itself, barriers that were maybe torn down. I doubt anyone in the 50s would have thought a comic book could win a major literary award, but "Maus" by Art Spiegelman won a Pulitzer in 1992 and "Watchmen" by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons won a Hugo in 1988.
While elitist can sometimes to be pompous pricks who strike down anything that may not be up to their standard, they will come around if something truly has merit like bandwagon Steeler fans. If there is a real system for determining what literature is today, I imagine it is pretty close to what I proposed. I don't think the system works currently works well when it comes to some fringe works, but I believe given time, it will work itself out. It certainly is a better system than having average Joe public tell us what literature is. Having the Twilight books as the gold standard for romance would be as horrendous as having Backstreet Boys crowned as the great musicians of the 90s. The average person cares more for what is entertaining than for what is grand therefore we should leave the judging to those who truly care for the medium unless we want to compile a list of "most badass novels: fuck yeah edition." In short, I trust someone who cares about literature enough to read James Joyce's "Ulysses" voluntarily to judge what can be considered literature than someone who was forced to read "To Kill a Mockingbird" and read the sparknotes to skip out on it anyway.
Sorry if this post becomes hard to read at times, Im writing this late and my midnight clown personality takes over from time to time.